The GURNETT Family of Swanbourne (Updated September 2020)
by Neil Rees
To see a PDF of the PowerPoint Presentation at Swanbourne Village Hall on 16th May, 2014, CLICK HERE:- Gurnett Family of Swanbourne
The Gurnett Surname
Gurnett is an uncommon surname whose origin is not known. There is also a fish called the gurnet, and there is a place called Gurnet Point near Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In England there is a place called Gurnett near Macclesfield. In old records the surname is variously spelt in Bucks as Gurnet, Gurnitt, Girnet and Gurnett but today is always spelt Gurnett. It is not to be confused with the Gurney or Garnett which are separate surnames in Bucks.
Gurnetts of Essex
As far as we can make out, all of the Gurnetts in the world can probably trace themselves back to one of two Gurnett branches, one from Bucks and one from Essex. The surname in Essex maybe connected to a Ricardus Gernet who is mentioned in the Domesday Book at Chigwell in Essex and he was a Norman who came with William the Conqueror.
The Buckingham Gurnetts
The furthest I have been able to trace the Gurnetts in Bucks is to John and Elizabeth Gurnett of Water Stratford in the mid 1600s. Their son Edward Gurnett was christened in 1662 and he moved to Buckingham. Edward Gurnett had a son Edward Gurnett who was christened in 1698. The Gurnett family appear in the Buckingham records from the late 1600s until the early 1800s.
Edward Gurnett of Buckingham held pasture land at Swanbourne. He married Jane Jennings of Denham in London in 1729. All their children were all christened at Denham. Only 3 children survived into adulthood who were daughters, 2 of whom settled at Fulmer. Edward’s wife Jane died in Fulmer in 1760 and Edward Gurnett re-married Ann Hitchcock in Dinton Church on 13th January 1761. In the Dinton register he is called “Edward Gurnett of the parish of Swanbourne, widower”. In the Swanbourne Enclosure records of 1762 Edward Gurnett was awarded land. Edward Gurnett died in Fulmer in 1765.
Edward Gurnett’s daughter Elizabeth married Edward Bavin in London 1761 but was widowed soon after, and seems to have moved back to Swanbourne. Westfield King of Swanbourne was also widowered in 1762. We then find the banns of marriage for “Westfield King of Swanbourne & Elizabeth Gurnett of Swanbourne” in the Swanbourne registers in January and February 1764. She was clearly pregnant at the time because they had a son Benjamin who was christened on 5th February 1764. The register says “child of Westfield King by Elizabeth Gurnett or Bavin.”
Elizabeth Gurnett’s son Benjamin was known as Benjamin Gurnett and from him all the Swanbourne Gurnetts descend. Benjamin Gurnett married Rebecca Brome at Swanbourne Church in 1787. Benjamin and Rebecca Gurnett had three sons: Benjamin Gurnett (1789-1866), John Gurnett (1794-1865) and William Gurnett (1800-1837). William Gurnett seems not have had any children but it is from Benjamin and John Gurnett that all the Gurnetts in Buckinghamshire, in two distinct family groups, descend. The family were part of Swanbourne Baptist church where some were buried in its grounds.
Descendants of Benjamin Gurnett (1789-1861) son of Benjamin, son of Edward
Benjamin Gurnett married three times. By his first wife Arabella he had a son John Gurnett in 1815. Arabella died the same year. In 1818 Benjamin married secondly Sarah Claridge by whom he had a son William Gurnett in 1825. In 1833 Benjamin Gurnett married thirdly Sarah Pitkinand he adopted her illegitimate son Thomas Pitkin (1826-1910), who was examined by the Royal Commission on Old-Age Pensions. The brothers John and William Gurnett both enlisted in the Royal Marines, and they both fought at the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War 1854-1856.
William Gurnett (1825-1887) married Charlotte Alderman in Woolwich in 1862 and they lived at the Marine Barracks in Woolwich where their first two children wereborn, but they returned to Swanbourne in 1867. William and Charlotte Gurnett had eight children. This family joined the Primitive Methodist church, and many of their descendants still live locally in Bucks to this day, including some in Swanbourne.
The Spittles Family
Mary Alice Gurnett (1869-1948), daughter of William and Charlotte Gurnett, married John Harris Spittles (1868-1950) in 1897 and they lived at Great Missenden. They donated the clock which is still used in the Methodist chapel. Many of their descendants still live in Bucks but two of their sons John Edward Spittles (1902-1992) and George Edward Spittles (1904-1997) sailed to Fremantle, Australia in the 1920s and their descendants live in the Perth area of Western Australia. Their other son William Gerald Spittles (1909-1942) was killed in action at El Alamein in 1942, and appears on the war memorial at Great Missenden.
The Plumstead Gurnetts
John Gurnett (1815-1880), son of Benjamin and Arabella Gurnett, married Ann Maria Davis at Woolwich in 1856. They had four sons: William Gurnett (1854-), Henry Thomas Gurnett (1857-1908), John Charles Gurnett (1860-) and Charles Gurnett (1865-) all born in Woolwich. The family settled in Plumstead. John Charles Gurnett and Charles Gurnett seem to have had no children, but the Gurnett descendants of William Gurnett (1854-) and Henry Thomas Gurnett (1857-1908) still live in the Plumstead area to this day.
Descendants of John Gurnett (1794-1865) son of Benjamin son of Edward
John Gurnett married Elizabeth Anstee in Swanbourne Church in 1821. They had sons Benjamin Gurnett (1821-1904), John Gurnett (1829-1917) and Charles Gurnett (1833-1899). John Gurnett and his family moved to Kensington and their descendants live in London.
The New South Wales Gurnetts
Charles Gurnett (1833-1899) married Elizabeth Wilmore in 1852. They emigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1855 on the “Samuel Boddington”. Their Gurnett descendants live in the Sydney area to this day.
Descendants of Benjamin Gurnett (1821-1904) son of John son of Benjamin son of Edward
Benjamin Gurnett married Jane Prior and they had three sons James Henry Gurnett (1850-1888), William Gurnett (1852-1923) and Thomas Gurnett (1855-1919). William Gurnett (1852-1923) married Elizabeth Adams and their family remained in Swanbourne and live locally.
The Wingrave Gurnetts
James Henry Gurnett (1850-1888) married Mary Ann Goldney (1844-1932) of Rowsham and they settled in Wingrave. They were connected to Wingrave Congregational church.
The Queensland Gurnetts
Thomas Gurnett (1855-1919), son of Benjamin and Jane Gurnett, married Ann Elizabeth (Eliza) Steeden (1859-1916) in Winslow on 17 December 1876 and they emigrated to Queensland, Australia on the “Scottish Bard” in 1877. Thomas Gurnett was the nephew of Charles Gurnett who emigrated to Sydney but their emigrations seem to be unconnected. Unusually Thomas Gurnett came back to England for a short time and he appears in the 1891 census living in the High Street in Great Missenden. They had six children born in Queensland including two sons: Thomas Benjamin Gurnett (1877-1929) and Ernest Albert Gurnett (1893-1977). Eliza died in 1916 and Thomas died in 1919 aged 64, and they are buried at Charters Towers in Queensland. From them descend a number of Queensland Gurnett families
Dinton parish records, Swanbourne parish records, Swanbourne Baptist records, Swanbourne Methodist records, Gurnett Family Bible.
SEE ALSO:- CHARLES GURNETT – Emigration to Australia